For Traumatized Children, Louie is the Perfect Canine Co-Therapist By Ranny Green | Feb 19, 2021

counsels. You might say Louie and Mom are Velcro mates.

Project Puppy Love “The idea for Project Puppy Love,” Raudenbush recalls, “started with a conversation with our team that began with me saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if . . . ?’ I found myself imagining all sorts of opportunities that having a dog in the clinical space not just present, but involved, could offer to families.” It remained just a ‘cool idea’ for a while as Raudenbush was growing her confidence and competence as a clinician. Eventually, she began researching therapy-dog usage online, “and then things started moving forward as doors began opening and my interest grew at the same time.” With that distant dream still intact, Raudenbush connected with Paws & Affection in Philadelphia. “I reached out via e-mail to their team and cautiously shared my crazy idea,” she recalls. “They responded immediately and arranged a phone call the next day. I remember, the director Laura (O’Kane) on that call saying, ‘I think we may have the dog for you.’ “ Enter Louie. He was brought into the P&A program initially for service- dog training. A quick learner and adored by the entire staff, he threw them a bit of a curveball with his anxiety in public spaces and preference for hugs over typical service-dog tasks. While P&A administrators could have pressed on and continued to train him for more traditional service work. They prioritize listening to what each dog is telling them about what he or she wants to do. “When they heard

In a world of social distancing, it feels good for everyone to experience hands-on closeness and love, which Louie serves up with a passion. If you’re looking for a job description for Louie, you better sit down and set aside a few minutes. Kelly Raudenbush, a child and family therapist at The Sparrow Fund in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and the 4-year-old Golden Retriever’s owner-handler, will only smile and tell you how he has grown into his job as a co-therapist since June 2018 helping children adopted from trauma form bonds and connections with their new families. In the process, he has settled into knowing what Raudenbush seeks from him but what he likes to do, too. “Therapy should be fun,” she emphasizes, “It shouldn’t be something that makes families’ hearts sink when they see it on their calendars. It’s work, yes, but it should be something that prompts families to smile.” Her clients are parents with foster and adoptive children navigating the effects of trauma while establishing trust and relationships. In that respect, you might say she walks the walk since she and her husband, Mark, have three biological children and a daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. A year later the couple founded The Sparrow Fund, and Kelly, an admitted “dreamer,” began searching for new ways to

me talk about involving a dog in family therapy, they heard me describe exactly what they believed Louie would want to do.” Here Louie visits his former training school, Paws & Affection in Philadelphia. The children are there for a week as part of a camp to learn about reading canine body language, dog behavior and psychology, positive dog training and the different jobs dogs have and enjoy.

engage families and offer opportunities for all to connect and focus on established priorities. Her eventual vehicle seven years later turned out to be Louie. But first things first. Raudenbush, a child and family therapist at The Sparrow Fund in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, have a special connection that overflows to families she Louie and owner Kelly

Louie’s Perfect Match And Louie hasn’t disappointed with his sweet, calming and sometimes silly demeanor, the perfect formula for interacting with children experiencing high stress and anxiety. “It’s all about building safety and trust,” Raudenbush adds. Before Louie’s placement, Raudenbush completed 50 hours of training with the P&A team. “And they have continued to


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